BAHRAIN: Sentenced to two years in prison for advocating and exercising the right to peaceful assembly
Publication of a Judicial Observation Mission Report
19 Feb 2013
The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, a joint programme of the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) and the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT), publishes today a report, which presents findings of a judicial observation mission conducted on the trial in appeal of prominent human rights defender Nabeel Rajab. The report concludes that a series of violations of the right to fair trial marred the judicial process and that Mr. Nabeel Rajab is suffering judicial harassment for merely advocating for and exercising the right to peaceful assembly in Bahrain.
While February 14, 2013 marks the second anniversary of the start of pro-democracy protests in Bahrain, Mr. Nabeel Rajab, Deputy Secretary General of FIDH, President of the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights (BCHR) and Director of the Gulf Centre for Human Rights (GCHR), remains detained in Jaw Prison, serving a two-year prison sentence. On December 11, 2012 the Appeals Court in Bahrain confirmed his conviction on charges of calling for and participating in peaceful gatherings on three occasions. As of today, he has been in detention for 217 days.
The Observatory sees the detention and sentence of Mr. Nabeel Rajab as arbitrary and solely aimed at sanctioning and preventing his human rights activities. Indeed, Mr. Rajab has been targeted for his tireless efforts at highlighting gross human rights violations in Bahrain, in particular since the beginning of the popular uprising in the country in February 2011 through the use of Twitter, Facebook, and other social network tools and media outlets as well as his participation in public gatherings.
“Mr. Rajab’s trial reflects Bahrain’s policy and practice of criminalising the exercise of the right to freedoms of association, expression and peaceful assembly and silencing human rights defenders and other dissenting voices” declared Gerald Staberock, OMCT Secretary General.
Between September and December 2012, the Observatory carried out four missions to Manama to monitor the hearings of Mr. Rajab’s trial. The report recounts the details of these missions and demonstrates that the trial in appeal against Mr. Nabeel Rajab failed to comply with international standards of fair trial. “The entire procedure was fraught with serious human rights violations from the time of arrest, through detention, trial and conviction” said Souhayr Belhassen, FIDH President.
Mr. Nabeel Rajab was initially detained on July 9, 2012 for his participation in “illegal” assemblies in January, February and March 2012 during which the authorities alleged that acts of violence were committed by some participants. Said gatherings were organised to call for the release of human rights defenders and political activists, to denounce corruption, to call for political and economic reforms, to denounce human rights violations and to call for a fair distribution of wealth and an end to torture.
Though the Bahraini authorities have committed on several occasions to implement the recommendations issued by the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry (BICI), including the release of all prisoners of opinion, Mr. Nabeel Rajab is still detained. He is held in a prison together with ordinary criminals, though most other prisoners of conscience are held together in a separate unit.